Hiding Place

Before you read this, make sure you have prepared everything. Ensure you’ve slept well, eaten something wholesome like porridge, or a banana.  If you’ve gorged on chocolate, or cake, it’s likely that as you reach the third paragraph you will start to flag and blame your tiredness on the feebleness of my prose.  So sleep and eat well, and make sure you don’t get disturbed.  If you have young children, wait until they are in bed, if you have older children, wait until they are settled, or out of the house. If you have an intrusive partner, suggest they go and fix that annoying tap, or the loose handle on the bedroom door.  Tell them a bill needs paying. If these don’t distract them, don’t read this until they’ve left you, or you leave them instead.  If you have a cat, put it outside, or if you live in a flat without a garden, give the cat milk and it will sleep for an hour.  If you have smaller, more irritating pets, lock them in their cages, or shut the door on the room where you keep them. If it’s the room with the loose door handle, and your partner is fixing it, don’t interfere.  If you live on a noisy street, close all the windows, draw the curtains, put on some music, but not music that will distract you, something with as few sudden changes in tempo or dynamics as you can think of. Perhaps a Bach sonata, or a work of meditative minimalist beauty. I particularly like Reich’s Music for Eighteen Musicians.

It’s also important that you aren’t preoccupied.  I like that word. Preoccupied. If you are preoccupied it means something occupied you before you commenced reading this.  (Not that you should have started reading, as these are instructions on what you should do before starting). Obliterate all preoccupations. These could be serious – maybe you have a life threatening illness, or one of your loved ones is suffering. Perhaps you have financial problems.  Are you unemployed, or unfulfilled? If you are getting old, and wonder where life is leading you, then it is unlikely you’re going to be in a good position to read this without fully absorbing all the subtleties of what it is I am getting at.

All of us get to a point where we have great existential doubt. Where we wonder why we have done what we have. Life has brought us here, and it is too late to find another path.  Worse still, we know another path will take us to a similar place.

There is no hiding place.

If you still seek to hide, or are preoccupied, or hungry, or tired, or irritated, or just discontent, you’re probably not in the best position to read this. Go and do something else. I can’t help you.

Elytron

I watch them come and go. I watch them. I watch them arrive and settle and take off again.

Sometimes I can study them, but not often.  They remain for only a few seconds.  A few seconds for my eyes to skip over them, and I make a mental note, that looks like that, this looks like this.  Sometimes I might be eating, or drinking from my flask, I’ve been sitting there so still for so long, I need to eat, you understand that, but it’s always  just at that moment, when I have a sandwich at my lips or the lid of the flask undone, they come, they arrive, they settle. And one decides to stay.  I breathe in.

It’s that iridescent quality that surprises me, as if the colour isn’t located in the thing itself, but in my head, or my imagination.  And the wings beat so  rapidly and the antennae a blur, and the compound eyes reflect the light again and again, like sunlight on the sea, and there it is, for a moment, held there, and just as it is captured, imprinted, and almost as immediately, changed, reshaped in the memory into something else, something that I want it to be more than what it is, because what it is is so fleeting, so momentary, and it’s gone.

I settle back to my place, holding on to the image. I get the notebook, I try and sketch its shape, adding annotations, I conjure the words: atramental, Tyrian, fuscous, cutch, ianthine, elytra, elytron, iceblink.

I breathe out.

The Shift

You don’t always know, I said to him, where your happiness can come from.  You can be undertaking the most routine task when suddenly there it is, a contentment, it just washes over you. And the opposite is true, of course, I continued, watching him shift slightly in his seat, taking a sip from his coffee.  You go out for a meal, and it’s expensive, not something you do often, and the waiter appears, and he says are you enjoying your meal?  Yes, you nod, yes, delicious, thank you. But the truth is although the food is good, and the wine is good, and the restaurant is lovely, and the people you are with are such great company, the truth is something you don’t really want to confront, and it’s this: everything you ever worked for, the house, the car, the holidays, the meals, the concerts, the weekends away, none of it is guaranteed to make you happy.  But then, one day, you go outside, and the scarlet red of the poppies bursts on your retina, the violet blue aquilegia nod,  then the cat swipes its paw at a bee, you hear a car on the lane, and far away a cuckoo, and somehow it all makes sense.  And there are the hills, and look at the clouds, and there’s you, standing there, miles from home, miles from everyone, penniless, lost, illiterate, wandering through the desert of your life and suddenly you are the richest, happiest  man in the world.